“纷纷红紫已成尘，布谷声中夏令新。”立夏时节，向各位亲爱的读者推出古诗英译栏目“华章英韵”第四期。本期邀请刘伯弢先生执笔主译宋朝诗人陆游的《初夏绝句》，让我们一起欣赏刘先生文思泉涌、议论风生中的真知灼见。 “Into dirt are petals red 'nd purple gone; 'Midst cooing Cuckoos is Summertime come.” In the beginning of summer, we will introduce to you, dear Reader, the fourth issue of Chinese Verse in English Rhyme, a column for English translations of ancient Chinese poetry. In this issue, we feel honored that Mr. Liu Botao has accepted our invitation to translate “A Quatrain Composed Upon Early Summer” by Lu You of the Song Dynasty. Let's enjoy Mr. Liu's great insights in his powerful flow of ideas and vivid discussions.
纷纷红紫已成尘， 布谷声中夏令新。 夹路桑麻行不尽， 始知身是太平人。
A Quatrain Composed Upon Early Summer
By LU You ( of the Song Dynasty) Translated by LIU Botao
Into dirt are petals red 'nd purple gone; 'Midst cooing Cuckoos is Summertime come. Thro' hemp 'nd mulberries growing wide and thick, Myself adrift in peace I find - not so quick.
The Quatrain, by Lu You (1125-1210), a poet of the Southern Song Dynasty, is small of size but big of substance, in stark contrast to his many compositions of an otherwise vehemently elegiac nature. In a style that features graphic freshness and poetic import, coupled with zero signs of verbal heroics of indignation or distress, the lines run smooth and limpid, in what is a moving bucolic summerscape of exuberance and plenitude, which naturally aroused in the poet a sense of idyllic euphoria and peace of mind. But those were troubled times for the poet, alias Wuguan (字, a name given by a man to himself at age 20), also alternatively called Fangweng (号, a name as which a man is addressed by his peers and juniors), when clashes between ethnic groups were seeing their full swing. The Northern Song Dynasty, subjugated and rendered ineffectual, was relegated to a regime in exile. The Southern Song, with Lin'an, today's Hangzhou, as its capital, resigned itself to circumstances and, rather than pooling its resources to stage a comeback for lost territories, bent its knees for peace from ethnic Nüzhen invaders from the north. How come a poet labeled himself a man blessed with peace against a backdrop of nationwide chaos and turmoil? The verdant summer may be the cause. Or it may be that the poet was looking forward to peace and prosperity. Or, as it were, the poet was mesmerized at the sight of the rolling vigor of nature, oblivious of all the angst and anguish. None of which we are enabled to know, though. Someone has claimed that "Nature has left the poet in a state of oblivion", as if the poem is all about sprightly lucidity nestled in vivid ease. On the contrary, the poet was leveraging this for a highlighted world of eventfulness. China sports an established literary tradition of reciprocality between poetry and history, i.e., poetry as proof of history and vice versa. A poem, if decontextualized, is nothing but a skeleton, a void free of the anima or soul. Poetic connoisseurship, a highly reader-specific enterprise, hinges upon the degree of a reader's preparedness for a particular poem, which may strike him or her somewhere and somehow. (Courtesy of online sources, to which heavy reference has been made for the part in Chinese.)
An alternative version by Prof. Farong Zhu: (附山东农业大学朱法荣教授版本)
Gone to dirt are the petals of red or purple; Comes anew the summer's day at the cuckoos' call. The never-ending hemps 'nd mulberries thrive all the way; For a moment I find myself a dog at his day*.
*Prof. Zhu derives the “dog” phrasing from a Chinese saying: Better be a[n under]dog in peace than a human in war. (朱教授版本所用“狗”的意象取自汉语谚语：宁做太平犬，不做乱世人。)
译者恳请署名“樗栎居白屋山人刘伯弢”，详情从略。 The Translator humbly requests publication thereof on condition of anonymity, except for appellation as B.T. Liu, Esq., alias Mr. Awkwood the CasaBlanca Dweller (樗栎居白屋山人), a self-proclaimed academic-turned media “veteran” on the right (left, actually) side of 60.